Amid shortage, SC asks Centre: ‘What’s the national plan on oxygen?’

The apex court will take cognizance on four points: supply of oxygen and medicines, method and manner of vaccination and state’s power to declare a lockdown

The apex court took suo moto cognisance of the COVID crisis facing the country currently

The Supreme Court wants to know how the Centre plans to meet the ever-increasing demand for oxygen and essential drugs and what will be the method of COVID vaccination in the days to come.

“We want to see the national plan on this issue,” said Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, adding that the Union of India will be issued a notice today (April 22) and the matter will be heard tomorrow.

The apex court, headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justices L Nageswara Rao and E Ravindra Bhat, took suo moto cognizance of the COVID crisis playing out all over the country on Thursday (April 22), the day India made a dubious record of topping the global tally of daily COVID cases, reporting 3,14,835 new cases and fatalities of 2,104 in a single day.

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Also read: Industries can wait for oxygen, patients cannot: Delhi HC slams Centre

CJI Bobde said that right now six High Courts in the country are hearing petitions involving the crisis of oxygen, beds and the anti-viral drug Remdesivir in hospitals. Bobde aid that cases pending in High Courts might be directed to the Supreme Court as different HCs dealing with issues create confusion.

“We wish to take suo motu cognisance of certain issues we find six High Courts – Delhi, Bombay, Sikkim Madhya Pradesh, Calcutta and Allahabad. Now they are exercising their jurisdiction in best interest. But what is happening is some kind of confusion and diversion of resources,” Bobde said, adding that the Centre can submit its replies to the different high courts for now.

The Delhi High Court will hear a case related to oxygen supply in Delhi’s hospitals at 3 pm on Thursday. In an urgent hearing held on Wednesday night, the Delhi High Court had emphasized that it was Centre’s responsibility to ensure uninterrupted oxygen supply.

The Delhi High Court expressed “shock and dismay” over the government’s handling of the oxygen crisis and directed the Centre to “beg, borrow, steal” but ensure enough oxygen supply for hospitals.

Also read: ‘Human lives at stake’, HC tells Centre to divert oxygen for industries to hospitals

“The citizen can only fall back on the state. It is the responsibility of the government. Beg… borrow… or steal, it is your job,” said the apex court.

“How is the government so oblivious of the reality on the ground? You cannot have people die because of no oxygen. You take your own sweet time and people die,” the HC had observed.

Meanwhile, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court had, on Wednesday, quashed the Union Health Ministry’s order to cut down the oxygen supply to Maharashtra. The High Court ordered the restoration of earlier oxygen allocation, notwithstanding the Union Ministry’s order.

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